Anatomy of a Sewing Machine

Posted on November 6, 2018 by Molly Hannelly


I love learning how to sew, but I felt as though my knowledge was not well-rounded. I know the basic parts of a sewing machine, like the needle and the presser foot, but not all the important parts. I felt like I needed to know the machine to truly learn how to sew, so I looked into it and compiled this list of the principal parts of the sewing machine.

Anatomy of the Sewing Machine

We'll start with the parts of the sewing machine that pertain directly to the thread. The spool thread comes from the top of the machine and goes through the upper thread guide, while the bobbin thread is under the needle and goes through the bobbin thread guide. Many novice sewists don't realize that there are two pieces of thread that go into sewing, the spool thread and the bobbin thread. The bobbin is threaded by the spool thread by being placed on the bobbin winder spindle, which is on top of the machine. There is a bobbin winder stopper, which makes sure your bobbin doesn't overfill.

The horizontal spool pin is where the spool is placed. The upper thread guide, which guides the thread from the spool down to the needle, is on top of the machine by the spool thread. Most thread guides have symbols printed on the machine that show you where to place the thread. Like the upper thread guide, the bobbin thread guide shows where the bobbin thread should go, and it is placed below the needle. The thread cutter is a raised piece of the machine that is used to cut thread. Some projects require a lot of thread, so there's a hole for a second spool pin, which is where a second spool pin is placed. A second spool pin is an attachment that you can purchase that holds a second spool. If you need more spool space, you can pick up a large spool holder, or a small one, and they simply hold extra spools of thread and keep your spools organized.

Once your thread is, well, threaded, where does it go? Through the needle! The needle is a long, slender tool that is placed vertically into the machine, which pierces the fabric and pushes the spool thread through. You can also use a twin needle, which is actually two needles attached to a single shaft. This is used for twin stitches. Typically one would thread the needle themselves, but there is also an auto needle threader. The auto needle threader threads the needle, automatically. Below the needle is a needle plate. The needle plate is a flat, rectangular piece of metal that goes below the needle. It is covered by the needle plate cover, and contains the edge guide, or quilting guide. The edge guide refers to the numbers on the needle plate, and they basically guide the seam allowance.

In order to sew, you need a presser foot. The presser foot holds the fabric down to make sure it doesn't move while sewing. Presser foot is an umbrella term that covers many different types of feet. Sewing machines come with an all purpose foot, which is for general sewing, patchwork stitches, decorative stitching, smocking, and a couple other uses. Another common type of presser foot is a walking foot, which assists in the sewing of difficult fabric, typically fabrics with a lot of stretch. In order to make sure the fabric is even, a walking foot moves the fabric in conjunction with the feed dogs, which are jagged pieces of metal that come up from the needle plate and move back and forth. A zipper foot is designed to assist in the sewing of zippers, while a buttonhole foot assists in the sewing of buttons, bar tack stitches, and darning stitches. The overcast foot is required for overcast sewing, the blind hem foot for blind stitches, and the satin stitch foot is for satin stitch sewing. A hemmer foot is for narrow hemming, a cording foot is used in cording, a gathering foot for gathering, and a quilting foot is for quilting. Another foot on the sewing machine is the foot pedal, which is not a presser foot. The foot pedal is controlled by the sewist's foot, and is basically how you sew. When you press the foot pedal, the needle starts to move, and when you lift your foot the needle stops.

The presser foot is controlled by a couple of different parts of the sewing machine. The presser foot pressure helps feed the fabric evenly, and needs to be changed based on the fabric being used. A heavier fabric needs more pressure, while a lighter fabric needs less. The presser foot lifter lifts the presser foot, while the drop feed lever drops the presser foot. The presser foot is connected to the needle by the foot controller connector. The needle is also controlled by a variety of parts of the sewing machine. The hand wheel, which is on the right side of the machine, raises and lowers the needle. The tension dial adjusts the thread tension, while the speed limiting adjustment dial adjusts the speed of the needle (I keep mine on the slowest setting because I am a slow sewist). There are also buttons that adjust the horizontal movement of the needle.

Actually, there are a lot of the details of sewing are controlled by a variety of buttons. The operation buttons are the reverse button, the auto-lock button, and the needle position button. The selection buttons select utility patterns. The function buttons pertain to the mirror, elongation, twin needle, stitch length adjustment, stitch width adjustment, memory, clear, pattern group selection, direct patterns mode, A group patterns mode, B group patterns mode, block style alphabet mode, and script style alphabet mode.

There are some parts of the machine that are necessary, even though they are not attached to the machine. A seam ripper is a pointy object that rips open seams. Your machine will also come with a screw driver, which is used to secure the presser foot, the needle plate, and a myriad of other parts on the machine.

There are some basic parts of a sewing machine that don't necessarily have anything to do with sewing, but are still vital to the operation, like the face plate. The face plate covers oiling points on the needle bar, presser bar, and take-up lever. This is located right about the needle, behind the upper thread guide. The handle is on top of the machine, and you can carry it with this. There's the power switch, which turns the machine on or off, and the power cord which connects the sewing machine to its power source.

In need of a sewing machine? Check out Mood's!

Mood Brand Lia Sewing Machine

Mood Brand Lia Sewing Machine

What part of the sewing machine is the most important to you? Let me know in the comments!

Anatomy of a Sewing Machine - Mood Sewciety
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